Embedding circular economy into product design and optimisation in new European Master education

According to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, up to 80% of the environmental impacts of a product are defined at the design stage, and to a large degree, these impacts result from the choice and design of materials in products. At the same time, companies often lack the expertise to adapt the life-cycle responsible design in business operations. This is why today’s students, future professionals, need to learn how to embed circular economy principles into product design. These two groups are brought together in the ambitious project Embedding Circular Economy into Product Design and Optimisation (e-CirP), coordinated by LUT University, Finland.

We are creating a modular education package where Master students around Europe analyse genuine industrial cases by utilising modern pedagogical approaches such as virtual reality.

Kaisa Grönman, Project Coordinator, LUT University, Finland

The consortium reaches all over Europe. Partners include Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. (Fraunhofer) in Germany, Metso Outotec in Finland, Technical University of Denmark in Denmark, Technische Universiteit Delft (Delft University of Technology) in Netherlands, Università degli Studi di Padova (University of Padova) in Italy and University of Helsinki in Finland.

Networking and knowledge sharing

The e-CirP project provides interactive education, networking and knowledge-sharing opportunity for future talents in the raw material field. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for companies to have their actual and topical challenges related to e.g. product design, life cycle sustainability or circularity to be examined by the Master students, under the guidance of subject experts. The consortium is co-operating with TELANTO, which is connecting the university students to companies who offer real-life case challenges to be solved in a close co-operation. Matti Luukkonen, Manager at Metso Outotec, has worked closely with the students:

For us, collaborating with students in the e-CirP project provides an opportunity to test ideas that can have a significant impact on product lifecycle management. During the project, new ideas develop as the company has to come out of the box to present the choices it has made. Open discussion and research work support the rethinking of solutions. Using new tools like VR is also fun and inspiring and supports co-creation.

Matti Luukkonen, Manager, Metso Outotec

The different pedagogical approaches have been compared and evaluated and Nicklas Sandström, the coordinator at University of Helsinki, is happy with the development of the course. The international collaboration of students on company cases has given students the possibility to learn how to co-operate although there are cultural differences.

With this course material we want to ensure that students gain an insight into the significance that raw material choices have on product performance, the firm’s circular business model development, and the circularity of the economy as a whole. We also want to help the students develop skills in assessing material choices from these perspectives.

Nicklas Sandström, University of Helsinki